Design Chick  

Design on a dime

Updating for less

By Crispin Butterfield

When it comes to refreshing and sprucing up your spaces, design and decorating are acts of passion, not just about pulling out your wallet and hearing the cash register ring.

If your budget's a little tight, here are great ideas that will help transform your spaces without hurting your bank account.


A quick pick-me-up for your cabinets, dressers, sideboards, and hutches, new hardware spices things up instantly. 

If you have dated-looking hardware, switch it out for modern chrome or distressed pewter handles. And don't worry if you have a few different finishes in the same area. 

As long as they're in the same colour family (chrome, pewter, nickel, and aluminum, or copper, oil rubbed bronze, black, or antiqued brass), you'll be just fine. 

Some companies are coming out with amazing etched and oxidized finishes for unique and artistic looks; don't be afraid to go bold on drab cabinets or aged furniture.


Paint is one of the best, if not the best, ways to instantly transform a room.

We’re no strangers to painting at least one room nearly every year in our house; it staves off boredom and allows us to create different looks at the fraction of the cost a total makeover would run. 

Choose a paint colour by pulling an existing shade out of a pattern on a throw, cushion, or canvas that is already in your room.

Walls aren't the only thing that might benefit from a dash of new colour: coffee tables, consoles, old dressers, bookshelves, and end tables are other pieces you can splash your brush with for a fresh look.

This works great for thrift shop finds or new pieces with less desirable finishes.


Outdated and inefficient fixtures drag your spaces down and don't flatter. 

Lighting can make or break a space and is often over looked when it comes to decorating. Some of the most fun fixtures I've ordered in the past have come from places like EQ3 or Structube. 

Floor lamps done up with transparent rice paper or woven grass cloth add soft sculptural dimension to bare or dim corners, while Mid-Century ceiling fixtures infuse whimsy and minimalist charm over a dining table or breakfast counter.


Once those walls are painted, it’s time to add a little dimension and flare; I don't necessarily mean you need to buy all new (that can get expensive) artwork, but take it down and move it around. 

Make new groupings by pairing pieces of similar size or colour together, or take that large piece down from over the mantle and lay a few smaller frames with black and white images up against the wall for a more contemporary look. 

Get creative with large collages made from patterned paper or fabric, wallpaper scraps or maps, or pop kid’s art into off-the-shelf frames with bright white mattes. 

Pillows and throws

Tired of your living room, but not in the position to buy new furniture? Buy a few new toss pillows to help introduce a new accent colour, or beef up the look of a plain sofa. 

If you've lucked out and own neutral furniture, you've essentially got a blank canvas you can work with. A colourful throw over the back of a plain sofa is a great way to add a pop of colour. 

Conversely, if the heavy or outdated pattern of your furniture needs to be toned down or neutralized, a single toned or monochromatic throw will help to hide some of the busyness. 

As a rule, don't buy more than three of the same cushions to use in a room that can end up looking too contrived and matchy-matchy. 

Instead, buy two or three of the same staple cushion, and then find a few others in similar or contrasting shades with different and interesting textures or patterns. 

Crispin Butterfield owns Urban Theory Interior Design, and has been designing soul-hugging residential and commercial spaces across Western Canada for the past 13 years. Check www.designchick.ca.

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About the Author

Crispin Butterfield is the creative force and mastermind behind Urban Theory; a graduate of Mount Royal University in Calgary, her engaging personality and design-commerce savvy make her a valued and well-respected professional and mentor within her field.

She’s able to uniquely see the parameters and vision of each project in ways her clients often cannot, and has honed the process and proficiency required to grow incredible long-standing client relationships. 

Crispin embraces a life full of ingenuity and imagination, fueled by raw ambition and a desire to leave her mark on the world. Her impeccable design style, expertise, and a rock-solid business acumen is the foundation which allows Urban Theory Interior Design to provide full scale services with authenticity, innovation, and ample amounts of personality.

Featured in Style At Home Magazine, Covet, Canadian Retailer, and The National Post – www.urbantheoryinteriordesign.com


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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